In 2009, archaeologists uncovered 2,000-year-old beef jerky in an ancient tomb in northwest China.
Looking pretty unappetizing at this point, I think it’s safe to say that jerky’s too old to eat.
But what if you’ve got jerky that’s been sitting in your pantry or fridge for less than a few millennia? How long does beef jerky last?
Follow me and we’ll find out the shelf life of beef jerky and how to tell if beef jerky has gone bad!
What exactly Is Beef Jerky?
Jerky is lean meat, trimmed of any fat, cut into strips and dehydrated. This process prevents spoilage and produces a tasty, protein-rich food that humans have been enjoying for thousands of years!
While ancient civilizations would dry meat in the sun, jerky today is often dehydrated using low-temperature drying ovens.
Jerky is a popular snack among backpackers, astronauts, and frankly just about everybody else, with almost 126 million Americans consuming beef jerky and meat snacks on a regular basis.
You can even get yourself your very own beef jerky subscription! That way you never have to worry about going without this delicious, meaty snack.
Why Does Beef Jerky Last So Long?
Jerky is typically made with lean meat, leaving out the fattier bits that spoil quickly. In the jerky making process, the meat is dried and most of the liquid is removed. The higher the moisture content of your jerky, the shorter shelflife it’ll have, as bacteria are more likely to grow in moist environments.
Most jerky is salted as well, with the salt drawing moisture out of the meat and acting as a preservative.
Some storebought jerky has additional preservatives, which will make the jerky last even longer.
How Can I Extend the Shelflife of Beef Jerky?
You’ll want to store your beef jerky in a cool, dry, dark place like a pantry or in the refrigerator. Keeping jerky in it’s original commercially vacuum sealed packaging means it will keep the longest.
If you’ve made your own beef jerky, the best bet is to vacuum seal it. If you can’t do that, store it in an airtight container.
It’s also possible to freeze your jerky to extend its shelf life even longer. Just be aware that this can change the taste and texture.
How Long Does Beef Jerky Last?
How long is beef jerky good for? Does beef jerky expire?
If you’re asking these questions, fear not, you’re not alone!
Because jerky has such a reputation for having a long shelf life, it’s hard to know exactly where to draw the line. When you’re feeling snacky late at night and you find that old package of jerky in your pantry, trust me that you’re not the only one googling, does beef jerky go bad?
The lifespan of beef jerky depends on a number of different factors. Take a look at your beef jerky package or if you made it yourself, recall how you processed it. This will help you know how long your jerky will be good for.
Most storebought jerky will have a “best if used by” date on it. This is a good rule of thumb, and for unopened jerky purchased from a store, it is probably still good about a month after this date. If it has a lot of preservatives, it will be good even longer than that.
If you’ve got an open package of storebought jerky, it should be stored in a resealable container or an airtight container. In the pantry, it will last for one to two weeks. It’ll last longer in the fridge, staying good for about a month.
If you make your own jerky, you want to be sure that you’ve trimmed all the fat off the meat before the drying process, otherwise, it won’t last very long at all.
It could be a good idea to use a vacuum sealer if you’re making your jerky in bulk. Vacuum-sealed homemade jerky will last for a month or two in the pantry and for potentially more than four months in the refrigerator.
An open package of homemade jerky that’s in an airtight container will last for a week or two in the pantry, and about one month in the fridge.
How To Tell If Beef Jerky Has Gone Bad
Keep an eye out for jerky becoming too hard and smelling off. Jerky shouldn’t smell rancid, moldy or fermented, but rather should smell cleanly of meat. If the color darkens quite a bit that’s also a potential sign it’s been hanging around a bit too long.
If there are any signs of condensation or moisture on the package, this is a bad sign.
If you find the jerky pieces to be unevenly soft and hard or if there are any damp spots, this is a sign that the drying process wasn’t completed.
If there are dark specs on the surface of your jerky, or obviously if there’s mold growing on it, it’s time to throw it out.
Now You Know If You Can Trust That Old Jerky In Your Pantry!
Now you can confidently march forward in life with an answer to the age-old question, how long does beef jerky last? Remember that depending on the moisture content, preservatives or lack thereof, and how you’re storing open packages, it will affect how long your beef jerky is good for!
Did you like this article? Check out the rest of our blog for more great info! Have any jerky tips to suggest? Let us know in the comments below!